Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Thank you China & goodbye to the Grannies

I've just arrived in Hue in central Vietnam & I've got my blog back at last!
The Chinese government censor has been blocking my blog (& presumably every other blog) for the past 10 days. Whatever their blocking device is it also spills over into north Vietnam as I was still blocked in Hanoi.

This is the explanation for some inconsistent gaps in postings & the erratic dates - I've had to email them home & get someone else to post them from there.

This blog should have appeared on the 19th September.

The majority of passengers on the Tsar's Gold train from Moscow to Beijing were French & German speakers so I was grouped with an American TV film crew making - Grannies on Safari - a TV show broadcast in 120 countries & translated into 16 languages.

Regina Frasier & Pat Johnson (www.granniesonsafari.com) are the star grannies & Julio Martinez is the camerman/director/editor whilst Barbara Azbill is the production assistant & the assistant camerman Darryn was rushed to hospital in Ulan Ude with appendicitis.

My first thoughts were, how the hell am I going to get away from these people but they were no sterotypical - American's abroad - they were clever, thoughtful, insightful, brilliant fun & Regina's organisational skills were breathtaking.

They're Chicago based & have been colleagues & friends for years; after retiring their combined professional background seemed to steer them into a second career of making travel shows.

Regina is the brains & the driving force & has an extensive travel background with a major airline - in charge of PR, corporate video & magazine production as well as arts & culture sponsorship, which gave her a wide network of travel & media contacts. Pat's a culture vulture with a background in international arts administration with museums, institutions & the City Dept of Cultural Affairs. She's travelled nearly everywhere & between them they make a great team with contrasting personalities & complementary skills.

The inspiration for Grannies on Safari came from the UK travel cookery series - Two Fat Ladies & before they told me this - that's exactly what they reminded me of - not the fat bit, I mean the oddball programme format. Their first show was in South Africa in 2005 & they've been travelling & filming ever since.

What makes their shows special, compared with so many formulaic TV travel shows, is their spontaneity; they're completely unscripted but of course have done their homework & have a story theme. There's none of the phony glitz & glamour of corporate clone travel shows. The essence of their progrmmes is to follow their passion for people & places & why things are the way they are - its about life - & travel is really a colourful backdrop.

I've spent nearly three weeks with the Grannies & Julio; they've just left for the airport & I feel like I've been orphaned in Beijing. I've got to start thinking for myself again - no Regina to provide all the energy & enthusiam, no Julio to say not there, this will be the best shot (heels or not) & no Pat to say, I want to see some art, isnt that amazing & why don't we sit down somewhere - a girl after my own heart.

I couldnt have had more unexpected or better travelling companions & I think the rest of my journey is going to feel like something is missing.

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